She co-founded (with Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem, and others) the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, believing in the power that women could have as a voting majority. “A white mother is no different from a black mother,” she said. “The only thing is they haven’t had as many problems. But we cry the same tears.”
Hamer died on March 14, 1977 at age 59. Over 15 years earlier, at age 44, before her battle for her voting rights began, Hamer had surgery to remove a tumor. During this procedure, the white doctor also gave her a hysterectomy without her consent. This was relatively common at the time due to Mississippi’s compulsory sterilization plan to reduce the number of black children born in the state. (It’s believed Hamer coined the euphemism “Mississippi appendectomy” for this practice.) Hamer’s daughters were both adopted and well-loved. One died, however, of internal hemorrhaging. The local hospital refused to help the girl because of her mother’s activism. The early years of the 1970s saw her hospitalized with nervous exhaustion and she was in very poor health from 1974 until her death three years later.
“…it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to [kill me] a little bit at a time since I could remember,” Hamer had said. It is difficult to imagine that these experiences, including the violence she received at the hands of police in Winona, did not rob years from her life—and thereby rob the world, and her loved ones, of her.
Her memorial service was standing room only, so an additional overflow service was held at a local high school. Over 1,500 people attended. Andrew Young, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke at the service. “None of us would be where we are now had she not been there then,” he said.
Her gravestone bears what is likely her most famous quote:
“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
This article will end with another of her most famous quotes: